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A1 GRAND PRIX

 

This is not to say that this was not a highly entertaining pair of races. Hulkenberg led the sprint race from start to finish but the battle for second was a fine stoush. Britton Robbie Kerr jumped Reid at the start and chased the leader hard until a slow puncture in the right front tyre caused him to slow. At mid distance the Lebanese driver Alex Khateeb lost it in turn 8 and speared nose first into the wall bringing out the safety car. On the restart Reid timed his run beautifully and passed Kerr into turn one. With his handling rapidly deteriorating, Kerr hung on in front of Duval (France) and Buemi (Switzerland) for a few more laps until the tyre finally burst, giving the Brit a fairly hairy moment going into the 160 MPH first turn and sent him crawling back to the pits.

In the Feature race all the real fun was behind the two leaders. On the opening lap, Canada’s James Hinchcliffe tried unsuccessfully to close the door on Christian Murchison and ended up cart-wheeling through the gravel trap at turn four. That both drivers emerged unscathed to discuss their various opinions of the incident speaks volumes for the strength of the Lola chassis. Then just as the safety car was about to pull off, South African Alan van der Merwe simultaneously put his right foot down and his brain into neutral and plowed up the back of the Pakistan car neatly removing front & rear wings respectively. Van der Merwe later claimed that Nur Ali had slowed unexpectedly but as this happened about twenty yards in front of where I was standing I can categorically state that if Ali was going any faster he would have been causing a similar accident. In any event the safety car stayed out for another few laps while the South African car was removed and a small grass fire was extinguished.

{mosimage}At the restart Reid continued to lead, chased hard by Hulkenberg until the German pitted and then the race for the lead was over. There was nothing wrong with Reid’s stop, it was just that Hulkenberg’s out lap was a ripper and Reid’s in lap wasn’t. Meanwhile out in front was Ho-Pin Tung, the Chinese driver making a late-ish stop and making up time while running in clean air. His late stop also helped him in his chase of those who where in front of him when he rejoined. Tung rejoined in fifth place and soon was all over the back on Enge in the Czech car. Before very long he was past Enge and rapidly hauling in Bleekemolen in the bright orange Dutch car. Bleekemolen put up a much stiffer (and somewhat dubious) defense and this gave rise to what has to be the passing move of the year. After selling Bleekemolen a dummy down the inside on the main straight, Tung then swept to the right and simply powered around the outside of the Dutchman through the flat out turn one. A move, reminiscent of the one that Alonso made on Schumacher at Suzuka a couple of years ago, that had everybody holding their breath. If this didn’t work it would have resembled an aircraft accident. As it was, Tung pulled it off and stormed off into the distance in a vain attempt to catch the leaders.

And so it finished. Hulkenberg looked pleased with his weekend’s work. Reid was happy but looked a bit frustrated about coming second to the German – Again. The most animated on the podium and the new crowd favorite, if the roar of applause is anything to go by, was the young Chinese chap with the Dutch accent and the balls of steel. There are a few drivers in this series who could go far, Hulkenberg being the most obvious, but don’t write off Ho-Pin Tung. He has already tested a Williams F1 car a couple of years back and was the German F3 champion of 2006. And after a passing move like that, he WILL be worth watching.

Sam Snape 5-2- 2007